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Friday October 18, 2013

Is expat envy on the rise?

A Spanish friend was telling me recently how the British expats in her village were ostensibly very chummy, meeting in the local bar for a gossip and popping round to one another’s homes for regular dinner parties but she insisted that it was all a charade. As a waitress in a local café with an excellent command of English she told me that it was difficult to avoid hearing snippets of conversation of those she served, and found it astonishing that seemingly bosom pals often proved to be poisonous rivals. She called it the Judas kiss- expats who air kiss sweetly but secretly harbour a grudge or intense dislike for one another.

Her view was that as the economic crisis grew so too did expat envy and competition. Those expats comfortably off without mortgages or who enjoyed properties both in the UK and Spain, began to irritate the have-nots, many of whom were struggling to keep afloat, often with families and spiraling bills. Then there were those working in similar businesses on the same patch who began to look for ways to outsmart each other in order to win new business. I found this rather alarming especially as I have always thought that the expat community on Majorca gelled well and that a heck of a lot of successful business to business trading went on.

Admittedly I exist in my own little writing bubble on a secluded track shared with Majorcan neighbours and a deranged and demanding menagerie so I rarely find myself up to speed with the activities of local expats aside from a few who have become close friends. I find it sad that instead of supporting one another during tough times, there are evidently destructive expats riddled with envy and driven by fear and insecurity.

I was pondering all this when I received a call out of the blue from a British woman I have never met. She told me that she was handling holiday rentals in our valley and had discovered me via my website. As a resident author and local expert, she wondered whether I could give her the inside track on rival expat businesses in the area and one in particular run by a successful and hard working English agent who just happened to be someone I liked and knew well. Not only was I appalled that she should have canvassed me – a complete stranger – in this underhand way but imagined that I might play ball. Instead I told her to plough her own furrow and to develop USPs of her own rather than steal business from someone who could indeed become an ally. She politely yet coldly told me that business didn’t operate in that way. Actually from past experience I know that it can and does.

I count it a blessing that I’ve got to the stage in life where I genuinely don’t envy anyone and only compete with myself – I suppose it’s called being happy in one’s own skin. There’s a small hope that my random caller will one day learn to feel comfortable in hers too.

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